Stella. Stella (Ruth Jones). Copyright: Tidy Productions


  • TV comedy drama
  • Sky One
  • 2012 - 2017
  • 58 episodes (6 series)

Comedy drama written by and starring Ruth Jones as Stella, a single mother struggling in the Welsh valleys. Stars Ruth Jones, Joanna Riding, Piers Ahia, Patrick Baladi, Craig Gallivan and more.

  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 3,259

Ruth Jones and Patrick Baladi interview

Stella. Image shows from L to R: Michael Jackson (Patrick Baladi), Stella (Ruth Jones). Copyright: Tidy Productions
Stella. Image shows from L to R: Stella (Ruth Jones), Michael Jackson (Patrick Baladi). Copyright: Tidy Productions

Series creator Ruth Jones and Pontyberry newcomer Patrick Baladi talk about what's in store in the third series of Stella...

Ruth, back in 2010 when the series launched, did you think you'd be writing and talking about a third run?

Ruth: I didn't even think we'd be writing a second series so, yes, very surprised. When we first started working on Stella, all I could think was, oh, everyone's going to compare it to Gavin & Stacey, but the response has been amazing. Now I get stopped more about Stella, which is lovely. I'm really pleased.

Why do you think people have so much affection for the show?

Ruth: There's nothing high-concept about Stella, it's very character-led and if people take to the characters they want to know what happens to them. It's a 10-episode series, so they're getting big slices of life in Pontyberry.

Patrick: It's also very matriarchal. People respond to Stella's warmth and heart and, although there are all these larger-than-life characters around her, she's the core and drive of the show.

What can we expect from the latest run?

Ruth: The overriding arc of the first two series was Stella's first love coming back into her life and the effect that had on her. By series three, having decided not to live with him, things have moved on. There is a huge time gap and Stella is excited about training to be a nurse - she put her career on hold because she became a mum so young, but she's not stupid and I think that bit has always been missing. It's a new start. Stella's not looking for love and has had it with men, but then she meets Michael Jackson [Patrick's character] in a sort of road rage argument.

How romantic...

Ruth: Yes [laughs]. The last thing she expects is to have this idiot move in next door and, vice versa, Michael's quite dismayed to discover that Stella is his neighbour. But this is a comedy drama and obstacles are overcome.

Leading on from that, Patrick, what you can tell us about your character?

Patrick: Michael is a bit of an idiot, but he's not in the best space at the moment, having gone through a divorce and being separated from his daughter, who is the apple of his eye. He's quite volatile and angry, which is interesting because my brother-in-law calls me Angry Pat [laughs]. I'm basically playing myself so didn't have to go too method.

Stella. Image shows from L to R: Ben (Justin Davies), Little Alan (Daniel Gammond), Emma (Catrin Stewart), Alan (Steve Speirs), Stella (Ruth Jones), Luke (Craig Gallivan), Michael Jackson (Patrick Baladi). Copyright: Tidy Productions

Stella is such a big ensemble - were you welcomed into the fold with open arms?

Patrick: No, it was traumatising [laughs]. I was very lucky because I'd worked with Steve Speirs [who plays Big Alan] before and it's always nice to have an ally, a friendly face. It's a great set-up and was a lovely experience. I was made to feel very welcome.

Ruth: Patrick was the first person that producer David Peet and myself met for the part and we just went 'god, it's him'. I think it was your anger [laughs]. Patrick is quite like Michael - he can be really annoying, but also tender, gentle, sexy and lovely.

Patrick: Sexy as well? Wow.

Ruth: Patrick fulfils all the criteria, and you don't always meet actors who can do both comedy and drama.

Talking of that, is there a particular genre that you enjoy more?

Patrick: I remember saying to Ruth that I don't approach comedy or drama differently, I try to play the truth and get as much out of a scene as possible. With comedy, though, you get to laugh and make other people laugh, and that's a wonderful medicine.

Ruth: What you said about playing the truth is absolutely right. Sometimes with comedy, you can tell when someone is trying to be funny, like I can tell when I'm trying to be funny and it just doesn't work.

Do you like shooting sexy scenes or not?

Ruth: I love shooting sexy scenes.

Stella. Image shows from L to R: Michael Jackson (Patrick Baladi), Stella (Ruth Jones). Copyright: Tidy Productions


Ruth: No [laughs]. I was talking about Bodies [which Patrick starred in] earlier and the sex in that is fantastic. It's my idea of hell, but if people can commit and carry it off, it's brilliant. I think sex can be very funny, though, and it gets funny for Stella and Michael. Have you done many sex scenes Patrick?

Patrick: A few. Do you remember: just let go? Oh, you kept that in [laughs]. I was telling Ruth about this sex scene I had to do with Helen Baxendale and one of my lines was 'just let go', and I said, 'do I have to say this, can we not just kiss or something?' The guy said 'no, it's really nice'... and it was just awful.

Ruth: We then have a sequence in Stella where they go to Go Ape - it's hideous. They all did it, I was the last person left, they all started shouting words of encouragement, then Patrick went 'just let go' [laughs]. We kept it in. So, yes, sex in comedy can be funny and it's also about representing real people. Alan finds love this series but he's feeling self-conscious because, once you reach a certain age, you might feel uncomfortable with your size and that kind of thing. Those are the realities of the day-to-day rather than all the beautiful, amazing figures we're bombarded with.

Is there anyone you especially enjoy writing scenes for?

Ruth: We loved writing for Cheryl, one of the new characters, because she's quite extreme and proper Valleys, and Aunty Brenda is always a joy to write for because she can be so rude. Then, obviously, there's Michael Jackson.

Patrick: It's such an ensemble cast, you've got to balance it out.

Ruth: This sounds a bit pretentious, but even characters that have only got one line are important. Nothing is wasted or in there for the sake of it.

Looking back over your careers as a whole, who have you learned the most from?

Ruth: We both worked with Keith Allen...

Patrick: ... but learned different things from him - learned to keep away [laughs]. I'm very good friends with Keith, we sing in a band together, but he is someone that I have learned a lot from in terms of valuing your own perspective on life and responding to certain things.

Ruth: It was fantastic working with Alison Steadman. I remember finding out that she was going to be playing my mum [in Fat Friends] and actually being upset and thinking 'oh my god, she's so brilliant and I'm really inadequate'. Of course, she's so professional and isn't remotely starry. Alison is all about getting the job done, and she won't do anything that isn't right for the character - she'll question things but in a constructive way. She's so warm and open in her scenes as well and it's so important to be selfless in an ensemble.

Patrick: The irony is that most people think that, to be an actor, you have to be quite self-obsessed and egocentric. Actually, it isn't about the self, it's about serving whatever is you're doing, and that's when interesting things happen. When someone is concerned about getting their light and looking good, they've lost it.

Ruth: Alison is also a real giggler and I love messing around on set. I'm not very professional in that way [laughs].

Patrick: I have to bring The Office up and Ricky Gervais, who deliberately tried to make people laugh. It creates a bit of jeopardy, something behind the eyes, and means you have to be completely on-point and present as opposed to just delivering lines.

Stella. Image shows from L to R: Stella (Ruth Jones), Michael Jackson (Patrick Baladi). Copyright: Tidy Productions

Ruth: Julia Davis is like that as well. She thinks she's better when she's nearly laughing.

What's the best piece of career or acting advice you've been given?

Patrick: 'Don't do it' was the best advice I was given [laughs].

Ruth: Did you get told that?

Patrick: My school asked, 'what do you want to be?'; 'I want to be an actor'; 'OK, but really, what do you want to do?'.

Ruth: Looking back, if I could give myself some advice, it would be 'don't try to be something you're not'. What's the point? When we're casting, people's photographs often don't look anything like them. It's good to embrace how you look and who you are.

Is it fair to say that acting is a very personal job?

Ruth: It depends because there are so many different types of actors. I always think of myself as a character actress and used to love hiding behind an accent. It's only in recent years, with Stella, that...

Patrick: It's closer to you.

Ruth: Yeah.

Patrick: Which is why, when you asked about watching Stella, having seen Ruth in Gavin & Stacey and Nighty Night being...

Ruth: Grotesque? [Laughs]

Patrick: No, not grotesque, but it was lovely to see your sensitive side, to see you smile.

Have you got any pet hates when it comes to TV?

Ruth: I do find the whole reality show thing bizarre.

Would you ever sign up to Strictly... or anything like that?

Ruth: I've been asked to do Strictly and I said I'd do it for three million pounds [laughs]. I'll never do it because I can't dance. You'd be good Patrick...

Patrick: I was asked to do it twice after The Office but, as an actor, it wasn't the right thing for me to do. It tends to be someone coming out of a show or a soap that has got a few months off.

Ruth: But, I have to say, in terms of types of shows, Strictly requires a lot of hard work and skill. I'm talking more about The Only Way is Essex, or whatever it's called. I've never actually seen it, so I can't really comment, but I don't understand why people want to watch something like that.

Patrick: I suppose sometimes the ordinary is fascinating as well.

Series 3 of Stella is on Sky1 on Fridays at 9pm. Episode Guide

Published: Wednesday 29th January 2014

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